Mostly I introduce you to new and old music that I highly recommend. But – with the introduction of my new column «50 Years Ago» , presenting number one albums from 1972 , there’s bound to be albums I’m not particularly fond of (like last month’s Deep Purple album). With Exile on Main Street, the Rolling Stones album that made number one for weeks 50 years ago, we’re unfortunately at it again. I have this to say: Even though I have seen Stones live and really enjoyed it, I can’t phantom how it is possible to rate the Stones higher than Beatles, like some would.
But don’t take my word for it. A perhaps surprising voice in favour of The Beatles is Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead: The Rolling Stones were the mummys boys they were all college students from the outskirts of London. They went to starve in London, but it was by choice, to give themselves some sort of aura of disrespectability. I did like the Stones, but they were never anywhere near the Beatles not for humour, not for originality, not for songs, not for presentation. All they had was Mick Jagger dancing about. Fair enough, the Stones made great records, but they were always shit on stage, whereas the Beatles were the gear.”
Well, enough said… I have picked a few decent songs from the 50 year old album, and more importantly, I have found some absolute gems from recent releases, so be prepared to be pleased.
Petter’s Short List contains all music reviewed in this blog post. Click here to listen and/or subscribe. The playlist changes every month.
Petter’s Long List contains all music previously reviewed from December 2021 and onwards. Click here to listen and/or subscribe. The playlist is extended every month.
You may also listen to the singles and sample tracks from each album reviewed by clicking on the title.
Tracks reviewed before December 2021 are available in Petter’s Blog Archive, found here.
Sample Track: Shine a Light
Sample Track: Morning Elvis
With her fifth album, Florence Welch returns doing musically more or less the same as what made her a star, but with lyrics that are tougher and maybe more introvert than before. Her strong and powerful voice is still the main attraction, though, together with symphonic arrangements, again and again lifting us from near silence to crescendos.
Sample Track: Trouble
I still haven’t watched the movie Elvis, but understand it is another great biographical movie about one of popular music’s greatest icons. The soundtrack album offers some interesting cover songs, and Austin Butler performs convincingly like Elvis himself. However, some of the remixes of Elvis’ own songs are absolutely outrageously horrible, with heavy beats that are killing one song after another, adding very little, taking away why these songs were great in the first place. As you can imagine, these particular songs are not in my playlist.
Sample Track: Without Malice Towards None (from Lincoln)
Few contemporary composers have created more memorable pieces than film composer John Williams. In light of that, I was a bit surprised that so few of his most enduring pieces were not included in this collection. Well, there are still some absolutely beautiful compositions included. Master cellist Yo-Yo Ma interprets the music of Williams in a way that draws you into whatever mood Williams has set for each piece. Lovely and accessible classical music.
Sample Track: Marian and Albert
Singer/songwriter Cris Williamson is, like so many other artists born in the 1940s and early 50s, still going strong and producing some of their best work late in life. Harbor Street reminds me a bit of last year’s excellent album from Peggy Seeger, First Farewell. This is an album performed with self-confidence, with an artist who has got nothing more to prove.
Sample Track: Coin
I have followed Russian-American singer/songwriter Regina Spektor for years. I like her pianobased pop music, a kind of a well-behaved Kate Bush, writing not-so-intimate stories with her songs. On her new album, she experiments a lot, pushing the verse-chorus-bridge-chorus formula in interesting ways.
Sample Track: Master Builder
Another interesting piano-based singer/songwriter is Nerina Pallot. She reminds me quite a bit of Regina Spektor, so if you like one, you most likely like both (and the opposite is true, too, I guess) There are major differences between the two, though: Pallot definitely puts herself and her personal life into the equation; and she is less dependent upon the piano when composing and performing. And she’s British.
Sample Track: Children of the Stars
Scottish singer Paolo Nutini was among UKs most popular male artists, and suddenly, in 2016, he stopped recording, and did not release more music until this year, when Last Night in the Bittersweet was released. The new album was definitely worth the wait, both critics and audiences seem to agree. And I agree. Nutini is hard to pin down, his range is rare, from rock to pop to soul, and his voice can handle anything.
Sample Track: 2am
Over to happy, guitar-based rock’n’roll. Foals is the sound of summer, a bit Oasis but definitely with their own sound, rough at times, mellow at others. The tunes are catchy – maybe two or three too many, but that’s what you’ve got me for: finding the best tracks.
Sample Track: Wall In Your Heart
It comes as no surprise to those who have followed my blog over the years that I have a weak spot for country artist Shelby Lynne. Her latest album of spirituals was nothing but brilliant. and now she’s back with an album of originals again. Some critics were very disappointed; I was not one of them. Her wonderful alto voice, the happy beats, the great songwriting is (mostly) there. My weak spot hasn’t been weakened.
Sample Track: They Sing At Night
Sundowners take me back to harmony groups of the 60s, Peter, Paul & Mary, Mamas & The Papas, The Seekers, but still in new wrapping. There is also a bit of First Aid Kit in the sound of this album. It all sounds sweet and warm, but I miss a bit of fun, that’s all. Still, there are some memorable tracks on the album, so I keep listening.
Sample Track: Go Dancing
Rae Morris is one of the most talented singer/songwriters I have come across for a long time. Yes, it is sweet and maybe not so challenging, but her music is creative, quirky and different. The world that she is creating with her lyrics and smart melodies, is a world I would like to be invited in to. For one reason or another Morris hasn’t captured the zeitgeist; her new album has fared worse than her previous releases. I do hope that will change. Listen and see if you agree.
Sample Track: Willow’s Song
The first thing you notice when listening to Katy J Pearson is her somewhat piercing voice. Do I like it or does it bother me? Next, she never stays in one place musically: you think you’re listening to indie pop, then there is the typical Top 40 material, then back to experimental and oh-so-strange. It is interesting, absolutely, and I do like much of it. But does it bother me a bit, too?
Sample Track: Little Hill
The next album might bother some of you. Benny Bock is the man behind the pop phenomenon Weeknd. His solo album Vanishing Act is about as far away from Weeknd as you can come. These tracks are jazzy soundscapes, interesting, at times beautiful, thought provoking, but to me always agreeable to listen to. Give it a try.
Sample Track: What’s It Gonna Take?
An «interesting» album to end this month’s album reviews: Van Morrison is out with his 43rd (!) studio album, and if you shut your ears to his lyrics, you’d probably say this is great rhythm’n’blues in old-fashioned Van Morrison style. But Van the Man is angry, and he doesn’t like much of what’s going on these days, he doesn’t believe in vaccines, and rants on like, as one reviewer put, like a drunk redneck uncle. Still I listen to him; I can take it, I don’t have to like his opinions, but I like his music. Sometimes it is OK to listen to someone outside your echo chamber.
There’s some very interesting singles releases as well this month. You’ll find links to them below. Kenyan Ondara, Greek-Norwegian Amanda Tenfjord with her distinct voice, a new welcome realease from Swedish duo First Aid Kit, an «entertaining» new single from 79-year old Barry Manilow, an amazing new track from cross-over singer Rosemary Standley, two lovely tracks from Norwegian vocalists Mimmi and AURORA, a great pop track from Tom Grennon. Among others. Enjoy!
An Alien in Minneapolis – Ondara
Blue is Just a Colour – Georgia Cécile
Dancin’ in the Isles – Barry Manilow
Exactly What I Needed – Michael Rault
Fall in Love With a Girl – Cavetown & Orla Gartland
Isis und Osiris – Birds on a Wire, Rosemary Standley & Dom La Nena
Melocoton (The Donka Donk Song) – Subwoolfer
Sonny The Strong – Gaz Coombes
Sample Track: Scratch My Back
I was lucky enough to work with Swedish-Norwegian jazz band, The Real Thing, in the 1990s, when they were the house band in a live TV series I produced. I just fell in love with their sound, a perfect mix of Paul Vagnberg’s Hammond B3 organ, Sigurd Køhn’s sax and Steffan William-Olsson’s guitar. On A Perfect Match the music was further enhanced by one of Scandinavia’s most brilliant big band, Bohuslän. The record is now also a tribute to Sigurd Køhn, who tragically died in the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.